On Tuesday, the final three players of the #Fire15 list presented by TrueCar were unveiled. Like any list that involves a bit of democracy, there was a bit of good debate who or who shouldn’t have been included among the players deemed the top 15 in club history. Having voted multiple times myself this past summer, I don’t think I ever came back with the same 15 players…
With that in mind, I thought it appropriate to take a look at seven guys that you could make a strong case to be in the 15.
Hristo Stoitchkov – One of two players on my Fire15 list back in July that didn’t make the final tally, Stoitchkov was perhaps the most high profile player ever to wear the Fire badge when he was in Chicago from 2000-02. The “Mad Bulgarian” known for his exploits with his country at the 1994 World Cup and Barcelona would go on to record 24 goals and 22 assists in 71 matches, starting only 40.
The legendary attacker scored a number of highlight reel goals but his most important would come when he tallied the first goal in the team’s 2-1 win over Miami to clinch its second U.S. Open Cup title in 2000.
Jim Curtin – If there ever was an unsung hero with the Fire, it was probably Jim Curtin.
The tall defender with the curly, blonde locks didn’t at first look a player that would go on to appear in an understated 186 competitive matches for the club from 2001-07.
Equipped with an infectious personality, the Fire fan favorite would go on to win two U.S. Open Cups and a Supporter’s Shield and was named the 2004 Fire Defender of the Year.
Diego Gutierrez – Though might not have known much about it at the time, Gutierrez was the scorer of one of the biggest goals in Chicago Fire history, with his 45th minute redirection of Peter Nowak’s strike in MLS Cup ’98.
Having done two stints with the Fire from 1998-01 and 2006-08, Gutierrez was often a constant in the Fire midfield, amassing 197 games, 10 goals and 34 assists (good enough for fifth all-time) while being part of four of the club’s six domestic titles.
Just as important though were Gutierrez’s off-the field contributions. The seven-year Fire veteran was named the club’s Humanitarian of the Year three seasons in a row from 2006-08 as well as winning the league-wide award in 2007 for his work with the Nothing But Nets anti-malaria campaign.
Damani Ralph – There are few rookies that have been as successful as Damani Ralph was in 2003 when he tallied 14 goals across all competitions and helped the club to the 2003 MLS Supporters Shield, U.S. Open Cup (where he scored the winning goal in the Final) and an appearance in MLS Cup.
The following season the Jamaican international joined his strike partner Ante Razov as the only other player in club history to tally double digit goals twice, recording 14 more to lead the team in 2004.
Following two successful seasons in Chicago, Ralph moved to Russian club Rubin Kazan always leaving Fire fans to wonder would could have been had he stayed with the Men in Red just a bit longer…
Also one of the most attack-minded defenders all-time in MLS, Segares sits behind only Lubos Kubik in offense created by Fire back liners, tallying 12 goals and 16 assists across all competitions.
Josh Wolff - Another one I wrangled back and forth with, Wolff is the club’s third all-time leading goal scorer with 39 and adds to that 19 assists over just 106 games.
The last remaining active player from the 1998 double-winning team, Wolff and Razov formed one of the most dangerous striker partnerships in the league from 1999 to 2002.
Having won an MLS Cup and two U.S. Open Cups, Wolff also holds the distinction of being the only player in Fire history to tally four goals in a match, doing so in a 5-1 U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal victory over Dallas in 2000.